Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Indigenous wisdom in modern times

Many Americans seem pretty darn ethnocentric. They accept Cheese Whiz, football and Fudruckers as facts of life, when they are just part of our corporate culture.

I feel we take too much of our mainstream culture for granted, when there is a wealth of other meaningful cultures living here as well, including our Native American brothers and sisters.

I initially was curious why Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants (2013) by Robin Wall Kimmerer had jumped onto the The New York Times Best Sellers list and has been there for 153 weeks. I reluctantly got the book and, perhaps surprisingly, fell in love with it.

Kimmerer is a botanist and Potawatomi professor who examines indigenous people's knowledge, wisdom and culture. I like to soak in that culture and think how it may complement, or improve, modern living.

The book consists of a bunch of essays, and their tender, caring mood makes them feel like much-needed hugs to the reader with love declarations for Mother Earth.

Braiding Sweetgrass starts with Sky Woman, the Native American story of creation. One day, a pregnant woman drops through a hole created by an uprooted tree, and that starts the human race. I would say Sky Woman is just a tiny bit nicer than Adam and Eve eating an apple, learning about satan and being shamed. 

Speaking of apples, I also remember learning about apple orchards in Braiding Sweetgrass. In an apple orchard, all trees grow at the same, healthy rate, even if one is in the shade or in bad soil. The healthy trees send their nutrients to the ones who need it more, and that enables them all to grow together. I wonder if we human beings could learn anything from that.
With Sky Woman and apple orchards, I see that Native Peoples have much different core beliefs than their European conquerers. Even with land ownership, that is a concept accepted as a fact of life for many of us. But that's an obvious human construct. Humans created land ownership, and when settlers came to the Americas, Native Peoples did not comprehend that.

The Earth is a giving, loving entity that we human beings need to survive. Why would the land need to be "owned" by certain select people? Aren't we all just renting our space from Mother Earth?

A theme in Braiding Sweetgrass is sustainable land stewardship. That seems to be opposite philosophy of current Americans, including former presidential candidate John Kerry, the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. He recently explained how American corporations will usher in a new era of environmentalism led by energy companies, including ExxonMobil. ... Kerry actually said that. Lol!

To look and explore the wonder of plants, trees, algae and all things earth-relate has started with me, and I give Kimmerer credit for allowing me to look at the world through her loving eyes. I feel it's healthy to question our fundamental beliefs now and again — whether it be about creation, land ownership or trees. 

That reminds me of that famous Mark Twain quote: "It ain't what you don't know that gets you trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

1 comment:

  1. I really liked the apple tree analogy.
    Let’s all help one another. We can learn from Nature.👍